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Alfred Russel Wallace : Alfred Wallace : A. R. Wallace :
Russel Wallace : Alfred Russell Wallace (sic)

Landowners in France. (S383b: 1885)

Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: A letter to the Editor questioning some land ownership statistics. Printed on page 6 of the 14 December 1885 issue of The Daily News (London). To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S383B.htm

     To the Editor of The Daily News. Sir,--In your report of the annual meeting of the Central Chamber of Agriculture, the President is said to have stated that "there were no fewer than 4,000,000 landowners in France," and the statement appears to have been accepted as correct. As similar statements are continually made, will you allow me to give a few facts showing that the real condition of French land-tenure is very different from what it is usually represented to be. In Mr. Jenkins' report to the Royal Agricultural Commission it is stated that "According to the latest statistics there were nearly eight millions of landed proprietors in France." A little further on, however, we find that if a man "has two, three, four, or more plots in separate communes he will be registered as so many owners." Again, we find that 5 1/2 millions of these plots are of less than 4s. annual value, and that three millions of the owners are registered as "indigent," and are therefore free of taxation! Turning to Kolb's "Condition of Nations" for further information, we learn that the "cultivators of their own land" number 2,201,505 men and 487,796 women--2,689,301 in all. This probably comprises the whole who may be fairly termed "peasant proprietors" or "yeomen," as against 994,228 farmers who cultivate under large owners. To determine the quantity of land occupied by the two classes we find the following statement in "La Terre aux Paysans" of November 15th ult., taken from the "Statistique de l'Agriculture de 1873";--Land cultivated by metayers or by tenant-farmers, 16 million hectares; farms of more than 100 hectares cultivated by paid labourers, 12; land cultivated by the owners themselves, 4; woods, forests, lands, marshes, &c., 16; houses, gardens, &c., 1. It thus appears that out of 32 million hectares of cultivated land in France only one-eighth belongs to genuine peasant proprietors, while at least four times as much is held by landed proprietors, who let out their estates to tenant-farmers. There appears to be no means for the extension of a peasant proprietary in France, and this explains the fact that, as with us, the rural population diminishes while the urban increases. --I am, yours, &c.,

Alfred R. Wallace.
Godalming, Dec. 10.

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